Kids love locking doors.

We were at my sister and brother-in-law’s house this summer, and had just returned from a day at the beach. We were hot and dirty and tired. We got the kids’ bathed and in their pajamas and were two teethbrushings away from a little well-deserved rest. Ashley left the bathroom for a few minutes, and when she returned the door was shut and locked. Not locked-with-a-typical-push-button lock, but locked-with-a-key locked. I went outside to try to see through the slats in the window to see what was going on. Ashley was at the door, alternately trying to talk a four-year-old through the process of unlocking the door and shoving the key under the door. Hannah was trying to do what Ashley was saying, but had to divide her attention between that and protecting herself from Will, who was hitting her and taking the key away.

One might think that the experience of being locked in a room would be sufficient to eliminate the behavior of locking doors. One would be wrong. For some reason my kids love to lock doors, and from conversations with other parents I am not alone. I am fairly sure the desire to lock doors begins as simple curiosity, but the child quickly realizes that a locked door is their key to unbridled mischief. A locked door is the green light a child needs to do whatever they want – the things they have been wanting to do but their parents won’t let them. It offers them total freedom. With a locked door they can paint their nails…and their fingers…and toes. They can get into the jar of Vaseline and polish the floor. They can attempt to fill the bathtub with water from the toilet using bathtub toys that have holes in them. They can put on Mom’s makeup. They can play “Will It Fit?”

This is a lot of fun for the child, but it all changes when they hear the approaching footsteps and the voice of their parent calling for them – “What are you doing?” Now, instead of an instrument of freedom, the door becomes a form of protection, a barrier to help them hide from punishment. Instead of joy it signifies fear. The door no longer works to keep someone else out, but to keep the child in. The pride they just felt in their independence is replaced by the shame of their disobedience.

We can relate to this – not only through our own experiences with our children or as children ourselves, but also through our relationship with God the Father.  We close the door of our heart to what we know is right, which allows us to do what we want for a time. We are free to engage in our own selfish desires with total disregard of how our behavior is affecting us or those around us. Then we hear the voice of God. It may be through our conscience, through a sermon or scripture, or maybe we get caught red-handed. In some way we become self-aware of our behavior and have to ask ourselves, “What have I done?” Now the door is locked, but no longer is it to keep God out, but to keep ourselves in. We don’t want to face Him and experience His anger and disappointment. We want instead to fix it, to clean it up and make it seem that nothing has happened. Then we will go back to face our Father. The problem, however, is that we can’t. We are unable to clean up our own mess, and we need God’s help.

When Adam and Eve sinned, they hid out of fear and shame. While that sin placed a barrier between them and their Father, all hope was not lost. At that moment God began to formulate a plan by which His children could be back in a perfect relationship with Him. He established a law, but that law was not going to free them. It was only there to keep them close until the door could be unlocked. When Jesus came and died, He removed that barrier and unlocked the door. Consider the following passage from Galatians 3:21-25:

Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law. But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.

Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law.

Christ unlocked the door! He freed us from fear and shame and guilt. He removed the barrier between God the Father and His children. So why do we remain behind closed doors? Why do we refuse to open the door to be in that close relationship that God so dearly wants? Fear? Guilt? Shame? Our children stay for fear of punishment, and I think we do as well. We are disappointed in ourselves, and rather than face our Father we choose to stay confined because we assume that He will not love us like He did.  What we fail to consider, however, is the great love our Father has for us. If my child is locked in the bathroom, having made a mess of some sort, I want to get in, but not to punish them. I want to help them and protect them from further harm. Why would we assume that God is any different.

As John relays the message from the angel of God to the seven churches in Revelation, he has a strong message for the church at Laodicea. He wants to spew them out of His mouth because of their apathy and pride. He encourages them to repent, saying

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. (Rev. 3:20)

He doesn’t want to come in to punish them. He isn’t going to disown them or make them sit in the corner. He wants to eat with them and renew the relationship that has been broken by their sin. The same is true of us. God didn’t send His son to remove the barrier put between us just so He can yell at us and tell us what terrible children we are. He knows that behind that door we are hurting, afraid and in a huge mess that we can’t fix. He has unlocked the door; now He just is waiting for us to open it so He can gather us up, fix our wounds and clean up our mess. The only question is do we trust Him enough to do it?